Artists I Like- Hiroshi Sugimoto

I was fortunate to have been able to visit Amsterdam, Netherlands, recently, where I saw an unbelievable amount of art. But the first place I visited after arriving was FOAM, the city’s museum of contemporary photography. I discovered that three new shows had opened there only a few days before, and one of them was work by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

I have been familiar with Sugimoto’s work for a long time, but had never had the pleasure of seeing it in person. The experience left me literally speechless, and I know that I will never be able to put into words what it was like.

In summary, the show consisted of pictures from 5 different series that Sugimoto has created over the course of the past few decades. Each series was represented by 5-7 photographs, which was enough to give the viewer an idea of the concept of each. Each series was in its own room so that the viewer could take the work in without it competing with other pictures. Although the size of the prints varied, they were all relatively large. I would guess that the smallest was @ 3ft. by 4 ft. All were framed, covered in non-glare glass, were lit beautifully, and hung on medium-to-dark gray walls.

The effect was mesmerizing. Sugimoto is a technical master, something that is becoming rare in today’s photographic world. But his technical mastery is always in the service of the ideas he has, and these ideas include some of the most basic that photographers can ask (What is the nature of light? How can it be controlled- or not?) as well as some that go far beyond what a lens can record (What is the nature of time?) His approach to photography is spiritual in nature, which is underscored in this interview.

In each series, Sugimoto had me wondering if what I was looking at was real- but “real” in what sense of the word? It didn’t matter if what he photographed was a seascape, electric sparks, wax figures, or museum dioramas. I could look at his pictures for endless hours and always find something new in them, as they cause me to ask questions about what I am seeing. The beauty of it is that I come up with different answers each time.

Seeing his work was sublime, spiritual, mesmerizing. His work is about so much more that the actual objects being photographed. If you ever find yourself near a gallery or museum with his work in it, do not miss it.

 

The Thread in the River- Show Opening & Acknowledgements

“If you make art that makes people curious, then people will lean towards it.”  ~Moby (singer, songwriter, DJ, musician, photographer and animal rights activist)

The Thread in the River opened two days ago at the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery in Cincinnati, OH. After working on this project actively for over 3 years, it is almost unreal that it is now out there in the world. The opening itself was crazy- over 400 people came and it was packed from beginning to end.

I have been helped by so many people along the way, and wanted to thank them for the role that each of them played. First and foremost, my enduring gratitude goes to my soulmate-in-the-search-for-perfection, Laura Fisher, whose tireless efforts went well above and beyond the call of duty. Working with her and Alex McClay was pure joy.

Alex McClay and me at the opening

I am also grateful to Whitney and Phillip Long for sponsoring the exhibit, and to Dennie Eagleson for her unfailing support and encouragement.

Me and Dennie Eagleson at the opening

Invaluable technical support and advice was provided by Jon Cone, Walker Blackwell, Cathy Cone, and Dana Hillesland of Cone Editions Press in Vermont. Every artist should be so lucky to have a framer par excellence like Laurie Gilbert. I would also like to thank Michael Everett, Larry Danque, Andy Marko and Charles Woodman for their input and efforts on my behalf.

Finally, my appreciation for my family knows no bounds. Without their patience and willingness to participate in my photographic activities over the years, even when they didn’t necessarily understand what I was doing, this project would not exist.

The Thread in the River- Installing the Show

To say that I have been buried in the preparations for this show the past few months is to make a gross understatement. The pace has been non-stop, but it has all come together without any last-minute disasters, which is a miracle.

I went down to the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery today to help with the layout of the work as it is installed. Since virtually none of this work has ever been exhibited before, I am beyond nervous as to the impact it will have once it is all up.

Installing “The Thread in the River” exhibition at the Weston Art Gallery, Cincinnati, OH

The show consists of 6 different bodies of work. Will all of those series make sense when seen together in the same space? Does the order and presentation of the work help the viewer make sense of it? Is it a problem that 2 of the series are in color and 4 are in black & white? Or that two series are presented as videos and 4 consist of still images? Does anything need rethinking for future exhibitions? What’s missing that could make it stronger?

Initial installation of “The Wind Telephone” series at the Weston Art Gallery, Cincinnati, OH

Only about half of the work was up today, and none of the labels were done, so it was hard for me to answer those questions. I’m going back tomorrow to look things over again, and might get a better sense of it then.